17:52 PM

Dr. Cuna Awarded Grant for Necrotizing Enterocolitis Research

Alain Cuna, MD, Neonatologist and physician-scientist, has been awarded the National Institutes of Health (NIH)/Frontiers University of Kansas Clinical and Translational Science Institute KL2 grant.

Dr. Cuna’s research focuses on understanding the mechanisms underlying necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), the most devastating neonatal intestinal emergency. The KL2 is a training award that allows Dr. Cuna to build his research skills under the mentorship of Dr. Sampath in the Donald W. Thibeault Lung and Immunology laboratories.

Dr. Cuna is also mentored by Dr. Shahid Umar, PhD (Vice Chair of Surgical Research, KUMC), and Dr. Mark Underwood, MD (Division Chief, Neonatology, UC Davis). His research is supported by Dr. Susana Chavez Bueno, MD (Infectious disease, Children's Mercy), members of the neonatology laboratories, Department of Pediatrics and the Children’s Mercy Research Institute.

NEC is a deadly intestinal disease that affects 5-10% of infants born prematurely. While inherent genetics and imbalanced intestinal microbial environment have been identified as key triggers of NEC, how these factors interact to cause NEC remain poorly understood.

This project aims to advance understanding of this complex interaction by using genetically modified mice developed in Dr. Sampath’s lab that mimics a mutation identified in preterm infants with NEC. This pathologic mutation is in Single Immunuglobulin Interleukin-1 related receptor (SIGIRR), a gene which normally functions as a brake for uncontrolled intestinal inflammation. We will also use this mouse model to test the potential of favorable manipulation of the gut microbiome, with probiotics or fecal transplant, in preventing or treating NEC in genetically predisposed hosts. Ultimately, the long-term goal of the project is to realize personalized, microbiome-based prevention and therapy against NEC based on one’s underlying genetic susceptibility for the disease.

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Children’s Mercy Kansas City is ranked as one of “America's Best Children's Hospitals” in nine specialties rated by U.S. News & World Report and has received MagnetTM recognition for excellence in nursing services five consecutive times. With 386 licensed beds and a medical staff of more than 750 pediatric subspecialists, we care for children from all 50 states and from around the world. In addition, our leadership in pediatric genomic medicine and individualized pediatric therapeutics is driving research and innovation in neonatology, nephrology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, neurology, heart, cancer and other subspecialties to transform outcomes for children. Children’s Mercy also is nationally recognized for innovation in psychosocial care and creating a family-centered environment focused on the unique needs of hospitalized children and their families. Our love for children powers everything we do, inspiring our research, innovations and our everyday care. Because love has no limits. And with it, neither do we.